Tree Foundation of Kern

Park Planner

To plan all aspects of public park utilization

A successful urban park is an oasis within the city offering refuge for everyone from children, who challenge their imaginations as they scramble about the playground to senior citizens, who keep themselves fit walking the tree-lined paths.

Park planners, often licensed in landscape architecture or similar fields, are visionaries of relaxation. Looking sometimes far into the future, planners try to create an environment that serves the widest possible usage and try to predict what needs will exist within the park in the future.

An interest in a variety of fields and a knack for understanding people is a must for park planners. Although much of their work is done alone at the drafting table or in the field, planners, who often work within government agencies, also work with others to coordinate and carry projects to completion.

A solid understanding of tree species help planners select the most appropriate and desirable species to fulfill a variety of needs from shade to beauty. "Probably the most important element in park design is trees," said Colin Bywater, a planner with the North Bakersfield Parks and Recreation Department. Bywater, who said he has a "fun job," conducts all long-range and short-range planning for his department, including site acquisition, design and irrigation planning and landscaping city playgrounds.

"I'm involved in the entire process, from the long-range planning to implementation," Bywater said.

For Bywater who loves the outdoors, the urban environment itself can be the most challenging aspect of the job. "You have to live in a big city to be successful in park planning," he said.

Most park planners are employed by government agencies which can make the process of completing projects quickly a real challenge. Adhering to regulations can sometimes lead to slow progress on projects. "The system and all of the regulations limit our ability to serve the public," said John Fedorsin with the Kern County Parks Department in Bakersfield.

In addition to their flair for design and their ability to look at the long-range effects, many park planners also must have a solid understanding of the grant application process as they search for funding through government and private organizations. "The whole issue is that there isn't enough funding," Fedorsin said. "Getting funding is always a challenge because there is never enough money."

Requires: Qualification and licensing depends on employing organization. Typically a 4 year degree and experience.

Salary: Starting mid $30,000. High $40,000 with experience.